News release from 10/11/2020

Funding means vital meals scheme can continue to provide lifeline for vulnerable for next six months

Funding means vital meals scheme can continue to provide lifeline for vulnerable for next six months

A vital scheme organised by volunteers with the help of South Cambridgeshire District Council to provide nutritious meals to vulnerable residents during the Coronavirus pandemic is set to continue.

Operating from Over Day Centre, since it began in May it has provided over 1,500 meals to 97 local residents in the villages of Over, Bar Hill, Caldecote, Cottenham, Hardwick, Harston, Longstanton, Swavesey and Willingham.

Now, thanks to new funding made available by Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the centre can carry on providing the crucial food lifeline throughout the duration of the current November to December National Lockdown and the winter months ahead up to the end of March next year.

Vara (crrt) Hedge from Cottenham receiving a meal delivery from volunteer Pauline Brown

The scheme to deliver meals to local vulnerable individuals started when the centre was unable to carry on providing its regular services during the first lockdown. Staff who were furloughed wanted to do something to help and chef Karen Croxon and her team volunteered to help prepare 50 meals one-day-a-week to continue supporting those most in need in the local community.

Delivered out by 25 volunteers, it proved such a success it was extended to two days per week and was also opened out to vulnerable families with older children who did not have access to free school meals.

The initial funding, which also helped support a similar project at C3 Church in Cambridge, came from developers Countryside with further support from Cambridgeshire Community Foundation’s (CCF) Coronavirus fund to run the scheme through the summer and up until the end of October.  The Council is currently looking at whether it can widen out the new funding to help further schemes in other parts of the district.

The meal delivery project not only provides a hearty meal but also the chance for recipients to have a chat with the volunteers, especially welcome for those who live alone and have not been able to enjoy the company of others at day care centres or lunch clubs which have been closed due to the pandemic.

Maire Collins, Chair of Cottenham Day Centre Lunch Club, which is currently closed, said those receiving the meals always commented on how good they are. "They say how much they appreciate them being delivered by the volunteers so they can also have a chat to us if only for a few minutes. It is hard for all the elderly to be cooped up for so long without being able to go out and meet their friends."

Recipients include Cottenham residents Vara Hedge, who has lived in the village all her life and worked at the primary school for many years, and former farmer Maurice Beavis who moved to the village to be near his family when his late wife was ill.

94-year-old Vara said she was “very grateful” for the meal delivery scheme: “I look forward to it. It’s a two-course meal which is very good and it means I don’t have to get a meal for myself that day. It’s always a nice surprise. I look forward to them coming.  There is a lot of traffic goes by my home but not a lot of people, so I look forward to just having a chat. There used to be six to eight of us sitting on a table for lunch at the Day Centre and I do miss seeing them ever so much.”

Maurice, aged 92, said the meal service “made a lot of difference” to his week: “I used to go to the Day Centre every Wednesday for lunch and I miss going. There would be 25 to 30 of us there and it was very good. I do miss the company and would go back tomorrow if I could. The meals provided now are very good and I appreciate them very much. I cook a lot of my own food and used to grow my own vegetables, so I am used to having proper meals, so I thank them for doing it.”Councillor Bill Handley

Councillor Bill HandleySouth Cambridgeshire District Cllr Bill Handley (pictured), Lead Cabinet Member for Community Resilience, Health and Wellbeing, a trustee of Over Day Centre and one of the local Members for Over and Willingham Ward, said: “This is such a valuable service provided by the centre for residents across nine villages and it is even more important now we are in a second National Lockdown. We are extremely grateful that the scheme can carry on, thanks to Government funding which is earmarked for exactly this type of support. The staff and volunteers are to be commended for all the hard work, thought and care they are putting into supporting some of our most vulnerable residents.”